Sinn Féin call for further scrutiny on Council’s Re-let Pilot Project

At a recent meeting of Wicklow County Council, a proposed pilot project for Council relets was discussed, following a request from Cllrs Grace McManus, Cllr Dermot ‘Daisy’ O’Brien, and independent Cllr Joe Behan. 

Re-let works are done by the Council to repair and improve housing units between tenancies. This pilot scheme from the Council proposes that some re-let works will not be completed, after review of the property by a technical person. 

The Pilot Project has been proposed as a way to deal with the lack of funding for the number of re-lets required over the coming year, particularly in high density areas such as Bray.

Speaking on the issue, Cllr McManus said

“I appreciate from the outset that council officials are constrained by a lack of adequate funding for the number of re-lets that will occur in the town and county over the coming year. They are under pressure to provide as many units as quickly as possible for those on our social housing waiting list. 

“However, at this stage I have several unresolved concerns around the policy in terms of quality, equality and sustainability. How do we ensure adequate standards for people who will pay us to rent these properties? How do we protect against future issues that may arise from this Pilot Project? What accountability mechanisms and paper trail will be in place for each of the units concerned? 

“There are also more questions to be asked of the Department of Housing with regard to funding. Has this been raised with the National Housing Department as an emergency funding situation? 

“We are now pursuing a further special meeting of Bray Municipal District elected members and council officials to tease out these issues, to make sure we as public representatives are doing all that we can to ensure the best for the people we represent”

Cllr Dermot ‘Daisy’ O’ Brien said “ This issue has not landed out of the blue. Successive Governments and their policies are at the root of the problems.

“At local level in my view we should not support or celebrate a proposal that means downgrading standards of refurbishment in local authority housing without fighting tooth and nail to prevent it. 

“If the Government is not providing enough funds to refurbish homes to a proper standard before they are re-let then the Government is not committed to resolving the housing crisis. 

“If local Cllrs are happy to support this without the most thorough risk assessments and the most comprehensive analysis of the options then we risk kicking the crisis down the road for the sake of what’s easy. Look at where that got us with the climate crisis!

“It’s easy to say “people have a choice” when offered a home that hasn’t been refurbished up to previous standards but I would argue that people living in some of the circumstances that I come across do not have a choice! People in desperate situations will make sacrifices for themselves and their families. It’s on us to ensure a standard of quality.

“So if we are going to be changing the approach to refurbishing local authority houses before they are given to new tenants we must be able to state explicitly to them what that means and more importantly what our promise is with regard to the standard of the home.“ 

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